Expand mobile version menu

What They Do

Insider Info

Electrical inspectors must keep up with the electrical codes so they in turn can help keep electrical power sources safe and secure.

This is no small job: just try to imagine a world without computers, stereos, televisions or refrigerators. It's a world without electricity and it would change our lives drastically.

In spite of its important role in our day-to-day life, electricity is something most people take for granted -- most people except electrical inspectors, that is.

It's an electrical inspector's job to take electricity very seriously.

"It's my job to ensure electricity is properly harnessed," says Sheldon Dewhurst, an electrical inspector in Austin, Texas. "If you've ever watched an electrical storm, you know what unharnessed electricity looks like. It's scary."

Electrical inspectors examine residential and commercial buildings -- including everything from vacuum outlets to power plants -- to make sure they have safe electrical wiring. They examine fuse boxes, test electrical outlets and look at the wiring itself to ensure it all meets safety standards as set out in the electrical code.

"Basically, the electrical code provides the rules for electrical wiring to ensure that electrical currents don't start fires or electrocute people. It's there for everyone's safety," says San Diego electrical inspector Tom Trainer.

The code is made up of thousands of specific rules, so an electrical inspector requires a great memory and a strong dose of common sense.

"You really have to take what you know from your practical experience and apply it to how you analyze the electrical safety rules," says Dewhurst.

Electrical inspectors are called on to inspect old and new buildings. When a contractor or private builder is constructing a new building, the electrical inspector will do a number of inspections during the building process.

"When a private residence is being built, I'll do three inspections. I don't do frequent inspections to be a pain. I do them so any mistakes can be corrected before it's too late," says electrical inspector Chuck Webber.

Electrical inspectors may do up to five or six inspections a day. Since each involves driving to a new site, inspecting the building and writing up a report, an electrical inspector has to be the kind of person who can handle a pretty busy schedule.

"You start each day with a list and try to see every one of the job sites the same day. With construction, people want their inspection done right away so it doesn't hold up the rest of the process," says Trainer.

After an inspection, the electrical inspector may or may not recommend changes to the electrical wiring. If changes are necessary, the inspector will return to the same site later to make sure the repairs have been made.

An inspector may meet 20 to 30 people at sites each day, so strong communication skills and people skills are a must.

Just how do electrical inspectors know so much about electricity? For starters, most of them have at least five to 10 years of experience as an electrician under their belt. This practical experience, combined with a course on the electrical code, makes electrical inspectors the perfect people to ensure you don't get your wires crossed.

"After several years as an electrician, you usually go in one of two directions. One way is to a foreman's position and the other is electrical inspector," says Dewhurst.

Electrical inspectors work for municipal or state governments, or for private companies that contract to government agencies.

Electrical inspectors need to be able to crawl around in tight places.

Physical requirements include climbing stairs or ladders, driving a car and having and good hearing and seeing abilities, says Mary-Beth Hull, an electrical inspector.

At a Glance

Examine residential and commercial buildings to make sure they have safe electrical wiring

  • Electrical codes are continuously updated, so inspectors need to keep up with the changes
  • Electrical inspectors require a great memory and common sense
  • Only experienced electricians may become inspectors